Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party primary: Tyranny of Central Election Committee is not Democracy

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On December 10, 1979, the “Formosa Incident” occurred in Kaohsiung, eventually leading to the founding of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 1986.
The DPP’s core belief includes a constitutional order based on “democracy” and freedom. But more than 30 years later, for the power struggle surrounding the presidential primaries, they can shunt aside the founding principle of “democratic progress,” and the power holders can just throw away the democratic values and think that because they control the party’s organs of power such as the “Central Executive Committee,” they can just force changes through and claim those still conform to a democratic process.

For the 15th presidential term starting with the 2020 presidential election, the DPP is organizing primaries for the seventh time. First, contenders for the presidential nomination register, and then negotiations take place, and if no single candidate remains, the party leadership will organize nationwide opinion polls to determine the final choice. This time, the negotiation process has already lasted two months, the longest in the party’s history.

The DPP’s nomination process is conducted according to rules passed by a party congress on January 22, 2011. Candidates for president, directly elected legislators, mayors and city councilors in cities directly under the central government, county magistrates and city mayors are selected completely by opinion polls. For the presidential primaries, the contenders first register and if negotiations do not succeed in finding a consensus around one single candidate, the party leadership will conduct national opinion polls to determine the final candidate.

On March 6, 2019, the DPP Central Standing Committee confirmed the use of the rules amended and approved by the Central Executive Committee on February 23, 2011, as follows:

The polls should be based on residential phone lists established within 12 months before the date of the first poll, and should be conducted by five polling companies with no fewer than 3,000 respondents for each poll.
The polls should include comparisons with rival candidates, either those who have been officially nominated by other parties, or those who can be agreed upon by the DPP candidates. If no rival candidates can be agreed on, then the polls should only include comparisons between DPP contenders.
If only one DPP candidate shows better polling results than the rivals, then he should be the party’s nominee, otherwise the candidate with the best results should be the nominee.

Timetables for the selection process have been established as follows:

On March 13, 2019, the Central Executive Committee decided on the following timetable:
Announcement of the primaries: March 14.
Registration period: March 18-22.
Negotiation period: March 23 – April 2.
Policy presentations: April 4-9.
Opinion polls: April 10-12.
Official nomination: April 17.

On March 27, 2019, the Central Executive Committee presented a revised timetable:
Negotiation period: extended until April 12.
Policy presentations: April 13-14.
Opinion polls: April 15-17.
Official nomination: April 24.

On April 10, 2019, the Central Executive Committee again revised the timetable:
Negotiation period: extended until May 22.
Policy presentations: undecided.
Opinion polls: undecided.
Official nomination: undecided.

On May 29, 2019, the Central Executive Committee again revised the timetable:
Negotiation period: May 29.
Policy presentations: June 8 (tentative).
Opinion polls: June 10 ~ June 14.
Official nomination: undecided.

Why is the DPP’s Central Executive Committee changing its process time and again? The Committee’s members have all accumulated experience as elected representatives of the people and as local government leaders, are they not familiar with legal administrative procedures?
Or are there “shadow warriors” who assume their powers are so without limit that they can have a small group such as the Central Executive Committee change the rules as they please?

There is a general understanding, that once rules are established and the game has started, if there are more changes, they count as new rules and will only apply to the next game.

As to the chaos surrounding the DPP’s 2020 presidential primary process, there are more and more voices from all sides, from within the DPP, from the green camp, the blue camp, overseas, Japan, the United States, the American Institute in Taiwan, all feeling wrong for William Lai. Because the process for the primaries already started, if negotiations fail to reach a solution, then the policy presentations should begin and opinion polls should be conducted, and the rules should not be changed halfway through the process.

Has the DPP almost been emptied and is there only the beautiful name of “Democratic” “Progressive” Party left? The trailblazing pioneers of the DPP feel the spirit of the founding days has gone, the soul and the virtue of the party are no longer present.